Background: Daily maintenance medications are recommended for all children with mild persistent to severe persistent asthma; however, poor adherence to these medications is common.
Objective: To evaluate the impact of school-based provision of inhaled corticosteroids on asthma severity among urban children with mild persistent to severe persistent asthma.
Design: Children aged 3 to 7 years with mild persistent to severe persistent asthma were identified at the start of the 2000-2001 and 2001-2002 school years in Rochester. Children were assigned randomly to a school-based care group (daily inhaled corticosteroids provided through the school) or a usual-care group (inhaled corticosteroids not given through school).
Main outcome measure: Improvement in parent-reported symptom-free days.
Results: Of 242 eligible children, 184 were enrolled from 54 urban schools. Data for 180 children were available. Parents of children in the school-based care group had a greater improvement in quality of life compared with parents of children in the usual-care group (change score, 0.63 vs 0.24; P =.047); also, children in the school-based care group vs the usual-care group missed less school because of asthma (mean total days missed, 6.8 vs 8.8; P =.047) and experienced more symptom-free days during the early winter months (mean days per 2-week period, 9.2 vs 7.3; P =.02). A post hoc analysis revealed that all significant findings were produced by differences among children who were not exposed to secondhand smoke. Furthermore, among children not exposed to smoke, those in the school-based care group vs the usual-care group had more symptom-free days overall (11.5 vs 10.5; P =.046), had fewer days needing rescue medications (1.6 vs 2.3; P =.03), and were less likely to have had 3 or more acute visits for asthma (6 [13%] of 47 children vs 17 [31%] of 54 children; P =.03).
Conclusions: School-based provision of inhaled corticosteroids significantly improved symptoms, quality of life, and absenteeism among urban children with mild persistent to severe persistent asthma. This effect was seen only among children not exposed to secondhand smoke.